Building your own ring of fire is a fun, easy weekend project. Fire pits are perfect for August evenings and provide relaxing outdoor fun well into the fall. Learn what you need to know to build a fire pit that is both safe and enjoyable for years to come.
Backyard fire pits are more than mere marshmallow roasting receptacles. They are social gathering places where family and friends come together to relax, celebrate, and reflect. Putting a fire pit in your backyard is a great way to encourage friends and family to gather outside in the evening instead of around the television. Here are a few things to keep in mind while planning for a fire pit of your own.
Fire pits are sold in most home and garden stores around the U.S. Their easy availability does not necessarily reflect their legality. Each county has their own regulations regarding backyard fires. Check with the fire department to see what the local regulations are in your area before you invest time and money into a backyard fire pit. Most counties have rules regarding the distance between a fire pit, dwellings, and other structures. Expect to place your fire pit at least ten to fifteen feet away from your home. This is a good rule of thumb even if your area does not have restrictions regarding distance. Nobody wants to be responsible for a house fire.
Equally terrifying is the potential for wildfires. Drier areas have restrictions in place during certain times of the year to prevent forest fires. Sparks and embers can travel as far as a mile under the right wind conditions, triggering dangerous blazes. Following seasonal regulations and using common sense are the best ways to avoid catastrophes. Check the weather before you light your fire and avoid lighting your fire pit on windy days. Not only will this prevent the spread of fire, it also prevents the smoke from chasing you around the fire pit with each gust of wind. Remember that accidents happen. Keep a jug or bucket of water handy for an emergency fire extinguisher and keep an eye on small children and pets.
Choosing The Best Site
The site of your fire pit depends on your property and on your preference. Property is a limiting factor for many households. Keeping a fire pit at least ten feet away from other structures in a small yard is limiting. Plus, you want to leave room for some rustic seating arrangements. If you have a small yard, consider a central location for your fire pit. Keep in mind that your fire pit does not have to be a permanent fixture. You do not need to sacrifice your lawn. Instead, consider a movable fire pit.
Would-be fire pit owners with large yards have more choice than those with small yards. Provided the fire pit is a safe distance from all buildings, the options are endless. Choose a spot that is clear of trees and has decent drainage. A wet location makes fire starting difficult, and overhanging branches pose fire risks. Less damaging but equally important is convenience. A fire pit that is too far out of the way probably won't get much use. If you plan on cooking over your fire, keep it closer to the house to avoid carrying food and beverages over long distances. If your fire pit is a gathering place for rowdy friends and family, on the other hand, placing it a healthy distance away from your home to prevent excessive noise is not a bad idea.
Yards are not the only option. Patios are great places for fire pits. Stone, brick, and tile patios are naturally fire retardant and are easy to clean. Sweeping up ashes and extinguishing embers is easy. Patios provide more options for creative builders. Stand alone fire pits and DIY fire pits are both possibilities, and incorporating a fire pit into an existing design or a brand new blueprint provides exciting opportunities.
Building Your Own Fire Pit
Building your own fire pit is a great outdoor project. Fire pits do not have to be complicated. A simple ring of stones suffices for many enthusiasts. Others build elaborate stone or brick pits complete with grills and wrap around patios. Regardless of the level of complexity, your fire pit needs to have two things: decent drainage and a fire barrier.
To begin, mark out your fire pit. Typical pit sizes range from three feet in diameter to six feet. This includes the wall and the burning area. Three feet is perfect for intimate gatherings while six feet is suitable for entertaining large groups. Dig out a circular level area twelve inches deep. Remove the dirt. Fill the pit with six inches of gravel. The gravel acts as drainage and as a level surface for your wall.
Once your pit is full of gravel, begin building your wall. Plan for walls that are no more than a foot high, as this is the optimum foot and marshmallow stick roasting height, and a foot thick. This provides you with a barrier between your fire pit and the rest of your lawn or patio. Simple stone rings are easy to build. This type of pit is a great weekend project and is relatively inexpensive, especially if you source the stone yourself. Fancier stonework takes a little more work. Research some stone building techniques and make sure you purchase the appropriate mortar for your material. Heat is destructive and breaks down seemingly indestructible materials quickly.
If you are looking for a truly elegant fire pit, consider contacting a contractor. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Fire pits are places to relax, not sources of stress. Talk with a local patio professional and plan for the fire pit of your dreams.
Buying A Fire Pit
Sometimes building your own fire pit is not worth the trouble. There are many attractive models on the market that are affordable and practical, not to mention back saving. Hauling gravel and stones is not easy work. Fire pits come in several styles. Chimineas provide the ambiance of a fire pit, but do not throw off as much heat. The chimney funnels the smoke up and away from faces, and the cute, round belly is pleasant to look at. The design of some chimineas also shields the fire from the wind, making it one of the safer fire pit options for patios and decks.
There are any number of styles of open fire pits. The simplest are just metal bowls at heart, balanced on a tripod or other frame. These bowls form the fire pit and many come with lids and grills for safety and cooking. These models are light and easy to move around your yard or patio – just do not attempt to move them with a lit fire inside. An open fire pit is perfect for roasting marshmallows and hot dogs. The lid keeps rainwater out of your pit when it is not in use and prevents the wind from blowing ashes across your yard.
Burn Baby, Burn
Summer is not over yet, so don't waste any more time. Start planning your backyard fire pit today and make the most of those late summer nights.